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Nov 26, 2013

Di Maria or Jese set to face Galatasaray

Carlo Ancelotti says that either Angel Di Maria or youngster Jese Rodriguez will replace the injured Cristiano Ronaldo in Wednesday’s Champions League group clash with Galatasaray at the Bernabeu.

Train: Injury mars victory

Ronaldo had to be substituted during Madrid’s 5-0 La Liga win at Almeria on Saturday, and tests subsequently revealed a minor thigh injury. Although the club did not specify a timeframe for the injury, local media reports suggested he could be sidelined for three weeks as he recovers from various knocks picked up during a busy schedule for club and country.

The Blancos coach told Tuesday’s prematch news conference that Ronaldo himself was confident of being back in time for Saturday’s home league game against Real Valladolid but no risks would be taken which might aggravate the problem.

“He has a strain, and the player is very confident he can play on Saturday,” Ancelotti said. “It is clear that if there is a risk that he will be injured further we will not play him. And we know he will not play the following weekend as he is suspended for the Copa del Rey.”

Ancelotti said that Ronaldo’s replacement against Galatasaray would be either Di Maria, who has recovered from a knock picked up on international duty with Argentina last week, or Jese, who provided two assists when he replaced the Portugal captain at Almeria on Saturday.

“We have Di Maria available and it could be that we play with him or Jese, who replaced Ronaldo really well in the game against Almeria,” he said. “We have two options and I will decide tomorrow.”

Even with Sami Khedira injured long term, and Luka Modric suspended for the game, Ancelotti suggested it was unlikely that senior midfielder Xabi Alonso would play the full 90 minutes against the Turkish champions.

“I really liked the work of Xabi and [Asier] Illarramendi together [against Almeria] -- they gave balance to the team, moved the ball quickly,” he said. “[But] we must be careful with Alonso as he is coming from a serious injury, and would be playing two games in three days. It could be that tomorrow he rests and Casemiro plays. Isco played very well -- for an attacker a goal gives you more confidence. He could play tomorrow.”

The Italian coach said Marcelo had recovered from his recent knee problems but that centre-back Raphael Varane still needed to rest his own troublesome knee issue. However, he denied reports that a further operation would be required to get the young France international back to 100 percent fitness.

“Yesterday there was a meeting with the players and the medics,” Ancelotti said. “It was decided that Varane needs to rest his knee for 10 to 12 days, so he cannot play for that time. We hope that after that recovery time his knee does not swell up. He does not need another operation, he just needs to rest and nothing else.”

Madrid need just one point from their last two group games to ensure top spot in the group and a seeding for the last-16 draw, but Ancelotti denied that this comfortable position -- or Madrid’s 6-1 win in the teams’ first group meeting in September -- meant he or his players would relax.

“We want to first secure qualification,” he said. “We have two games left and want to win them both. We need to be very intense tomorrow, as Galatasaray are playing to qualify. We have confidence because we won 6-1, but Galatasaray have changed since [coach Roberto] Mancini arrived. They have more balance and played very well at Juventus.

“They work hard in defence and have quality in attack with [Didier] Drogba, a very dangerous player. It will be a very different game.”

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